Visits and Visitors

 


We had a wonderful treat this week! We got to visit with our bishop from Idaho and his wife--Mike and Stephanie Balmforth. They were on a trip to Mexico with friends and gave us a call. We were able to meet them at their hotel for a short visit. If you know them, ask them about the adventure they had driving motorcycles from Mexico City to Oaxaca. It was good to see faces from home.

        


A new couple joined our ranks at Teca Once. They are the Zapatas from Merida, Mexico. They do not speak English, so Spanish has become the dominant language at our get togethers. That is pushing me, but it’s good for me. The Teca Once missionaries have a tradition of taking new couples out to dinner their first night here, so we took the Zapatas to Flash Taco on Monday. I was feeling a little adventurous, so I ordered a sope of huitlacoche. I didn’t know what huitlacoche was, so I asked if anyone else did. Pauline Davis told me it is corn smut. Literally, that’s what it is, a fungus that grows on corn. She also said it’s kind of like mushrooms, so since I like mushrooms, I decided to give it a try. My verdict—it was good, but I’d have enjoyed it more if it had been mixed with other things. It was kind of a one note flavor. It did have cheese on it, but still, it needed something more.
Me and my fungus!

 

Wednesday evening the Teca Once missionaries had an FHE at the Cluffs. On Monday, Pat Wright had teased the Zapatas that they would have to sing and dance at our FHE on Wednesday. It turned out that he actually does sing and she actually does dance! After our lesson, Jenny Zapata taught some of us women a traditional dance. Then her husband, Manuel, sang a song that said something like “I’m an ugly man but I have a lot of love.” When he was done, I said the other men should all sing with him since the women had danced with Jenny. Jerry Wright said, “But none of us are ugly men.” That got a good laugh.

I had an amazing thing happen when we were visiting after FHE. Manuel Zapata said something, and I understood it without even thinking about it or translating it in my head. I just understood it. It was a single sentence, and it was a simple concept, but still, I understood it. I was so startled that I literally thought, “Did he say that in English?” and I had to think about the words he’d used to determine that no, he’d been speaking Spanish. I still struggle to understand when people speak, but that gave me a glimmer of hope.

    


Friday all the Teca Once missionaries were invited to the Blake’s home for dinner. He is the president of the Mexico City West mission and is the mission president assigned to take care of us. We really don’t have a lot of interaction with him since we are all called as area missionaries. We had it explained to us that it’s like he’s our bishop, but we have a stake calling. However, we have met them at church. Their home is the mission home. It was fun to get to see behind the wall of at least one home along Avenida de las Fuentes. We’ve walked or ridden a bus up that street many times going to the grocery store (though not as far up as the mission home) and I try to peek behind the walls every chance I get. They had a lovely landscaped entrance at the front of the house and a small lawn in the back. Elder Hansen grilled chicken and hamburgers, and they were delicious—he is the king of meat! Everyone brought salads, sides, and desserts, and it was a feast.




A few weeks ago, when Ron was leaving a tip for Perla, the maid who cleans or room, he felt impressed to also leave her a pamphlet about the church, so he did. It turned out that was the last time she would clean our room because she got fired a few days later. (We don’t know exactly why but we do know it wasn’t for anything serious like stealing.) She sent notes to all the missionaries telling us good-bye, but we felt bad we hadn’t had the chance to say good-bye to her in person. Plus Ron felt like he needed to talk to her about the church and ask if she’d be willing to listen to missionaries. So he talked to one of the other maids who is Perla’s friend and arranged for us to visit Perla on Saturday. We’d heard that she lived a long way away from Teca Once, and that she spent up to two hours each way travelling to and from work, taking the metro and two different buses. However, riding that distance in an Uber let us see really just how far away she lives. The traffic wasn’t bad and the car moved right along, but it still took us about an hour to get to her house.


We had a funny thing happen on the way to Perla’s. Our Uber driver was very friendly, so we had a lively conversation. One of the topics was the different kinds of tacos. Ron asked him which was his favorite, and he answered, “Suadero.” We’ve never had that kind and asked him what they were like. He said it was beef that was boiled, then chopped up and fried. We said we’d have to try them sometime. About ten minutes later we were on a large thoroughfare which had three lanes going each direction, and our driver pulled as far over to the right as he could (which wasn’t too far because there was no parking lane) and stopped. I thought, “This can’t be where Perla lives,” but then the driver looked back at us and said we’d just passed a taco stand that was selling suadero and he was going to get us tacos to try. Then he jumped out of the car and headed back up the road. Ron figured he shouldn’t let the driver pay for the tacos or he wouldn’t make any profit on the trip, so he got out too. I was left alone in the car guarding all our stuff. The funny thing was our being stopped pretty much in the middle of one of the lanes didn’t slow down the traffic one bit. The cars all just squished in a little and three lanes of traffic kept right on going by. When Ron got to the taco stand, the driver told the cook he’d never had suadero so he needed to try a taco. Two other guys were sitting there and chimed in saying yes he needed to try one. So Ron said, “We all need tacos, I’m buying a round for all of us.” Of course, they loved that! They brought one for me too, and I really liked it. They mix chopped onions and cilantro in with the meat and it’s really good. Ron topped it with a little salsa for me. Here, that’s all you put on a taco—no cheese, no tomatoes, no lettuce. After I ate it, I told the driver suadero tacos are now my favorite too, though to be truthful, it’s hard to beat tacos al pastor.


It was good to see Perla, though she hasn’t found another job yet. She and her thirteen-year-old daughter live with her mother. They have a nice house in a cute neighborhood. Behind the house is a strip about ten feet wide. It had a stone floor with raised garden beds along it, and we loved looking at what they are growing. At one point, Ron wanted to speak to Perla privately, so they went out front, which left me and my limited Spanish trying to have a conversation with the shy thirteen-year-old and the quiet grandmother. I did manage to find out that the daughter likes to read, so using the translators on our phones, we compared the genres we enjoy. Meanwhile, Ron had a good visit with Perla. Among other things, he asked if she would be willing to allow the missionaries to stop by and visit with her, and she said yes.
   
This is the neighborhood where Perla lives. I loved the colorful houses on the hill.
   


After our visit with Perla, we decided to head to Coyoacan instead of going right home. It’s the area where we got off when we took the Turibus, but we were only able to spend a short time there that day and wanted to explore it more. It has such a pretty colonial square, and it was just as full of fun and people as when we’d been there before. Across the road from the plaza is a cathedral. It was open, so we went in. It was a very large church, and at the front a christening was being held, so they weren’t allowing visitors to go any further up than about the back three rows. We never want to intrude on someone else’s worship, so we sat in the back and enjoyed the beauty of the building from there. The christening mass ended just a few minutes after we entered, and then suddenly this amazing rendition of Ave Maria began and filled the room. It was a woman’s voice, and it was so loud and clear that we were sure it must be a recording. Then I noticed a cello and violin playing at the front of the cathedral but slightly obscured from our view by a pillar. (It was a huge room, and we were way at the back, so what was going on up front wasn’t easy to see.) I didn’t think they’d be playing along with a recording, but still wasn’t sure. Finally a woman, who we could not see at first because of the pillar, took a step back, and we realized she was the one singing. It was amazing to be sitting in that gorgeous cathedral listening to that song. After it finished, the people from the christening made their way up the isle and out, and those of us watching filtered out as well. When we were outside, I looked back at the cathedral and saw that they were closing the doors and not letting anyone else come in. So we got there at exactly the perfect moment.

   

The ceiling in the cathedral
   



The last time we were in Coyoacan, I’d seen an artisan market about a block from the square, but we hadn’t taken time to go to it then. So we went this time. It was two levels high and jam packed with booths. It was fun browsing. We came across one where a man was painting scenes from Mexico, and we stopped to look. He started speaking to us, and he was so enthusiastic and such a salesman that we were drawn in. Some of his paintings were in vibrant colors and others done in sepia tones. He told us the colorful ones were watercolors, and the sepia ones were painted with coffee. He showed us his coffee palette in which he’d diluted instant coffee to different strengths to get different shades of brown. He told us all the pictures were of actual places in Mexico. Thinking he could stump the guy, Ron said he’d buy a painting if he had one of Callej√≥n del Beso (the kissing alley in Guanajuato.) The guy lit up and said he did. He flipped through his paintings and found one in watercolor and one in coffee. So we were committed! I picked the watercolor one because I liked it and because even though the coffee pictures are cool, the colorful ones would go better in my house. Then I told Ron if we were going to buy one, we’d have to buy another so they could be hung together. He found another one he liked. It is of the cathedral in Taxco. We haven’t been to Taxco yet, but we’ve had a couple of Uber drivers tell us we should go there, so it’s on our list.

   



After we went through the entire Artisan market, I was getting hungry bordering on hangry. There is no shortage of sidewalk restaurants around the plaza, but a lot of people were there and obviously feeling like it was time to eat too, because many of the restaurants had lines. We settled for one that didn’t, mainly because I didn’t want to wait, but that probably wasn’t the best choice. The food was okay but not great. However, the ambiance and setting were superb, so all in all, it was a lovely afternoon.

This woman was just setting out her wares when we arrived at the square in Coyoacan. When we walked past her later, she had her three children with her. We really weren't interested in anything she was selling, but Ron bought "smiles" from her children for a few pesos each.
   
Coyoacan means coyote, and images of coyotes are everywhere there.
   
We've seen this flag from many different angles as we've driven around the city. It is massive. As we rode to Perla's we had this view of it, which I thought was awesome, but I couldn't get my phone out in time to get a picture. Coming back from Coyoacan, I realized we were on the same highway, so I made Ron roll down his window and take several shots as we drove past. It took a little editing, but for a photo taken from a moving car, I think it turned out pretty good.



Today at the office we were dealing with some difficult issues and feeling rather frustrated. Then we got an audio message on WhatApp. It was from a little six-year-old boy named Helaman. I wrote a story for  the Friend about an experience Helaman had. We'd received word that the story will be in the January issue, so Ron messaged his mother to tell her. Helaman sent us the audio message as soon as he got home from school and heard the news. In his sweet little voice, he thanked us and told us how excited he was and said he wanted to give us a big brazo (hug)! That brightened my day beyond description and helped temper the frustration.

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